Sunday, April 29, 2012

Cinco de Mayo and the Sierra Foothills: History in Wine Country

There’s good evidence that the first Cinco de Mayo celebration in the USA was held in California’s Sierra Foothills, specifically in the gold mining town of Columbia (now Columbia State Park) in Tuolumne County.  The holiday celebrates the expulsion of the French from Mexico after the victorious Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.  According to a 2007 article in Southern California Quarterly, Mexican miners were so overjoyed at the news that they spontaneously fired off rifles shots and fireworks, sang patriotic songs and made impromptu speeches.”  The holiday has been celebrated in California continuously since 1863, but as many of our Latino citizens and guest workers will tell you, it is virtually ignored in Mexico.

Many Sierra Foothill wineries are enthusiastic about joining the Latino community in this historical celebration, and in celebrating their Latino linkages overall.   When asked for notices about their celebrations, the response was varied.

PERHAPS THE MOST HEARTWARMING CELEBRATION NOTE came from Randy Nathan of Calaveras Creek Winery (   Randy celebrates Cinco de Mayo with this written tribute to his Hispanic workers: 

“Over here at Calaveras Creek I could not have put together my vineyard and organic farm without my wonderful workers from Mexico.  I am so happy for their help that I am now building them a new larger home for their families.

“When I am sick, they take care of me. They feed me at times when I am not able to take care of myself. They watch over me at our vineyard which is fairly remote…we are about 4 miles from my closest neighbor and over 30 minutes from the hospital.  I’ve been going to the hospital lately because of heart  problems.   So without them and their care, I would be forced to live closer to a hospital and close by neighbors.  That’s not for me.  I prefer being at the vineyard enjoying life and I can do that with the help of my workers from Mexico.”

Wow.  Thanks, Randy, that says so much!  Your gratitude is well-placed and ‘way too rare an acknowledgement of what the wine business owes to our Latino citizens and workers.


Borjón Winery in the Shenandoah Valley, Amador County, has a direct connection to the Latino community.  Jesse Borjon and his wife came from Mexico as farm labor and developed a farm labor company.  Son Issy, with his wife, have built the well-regarded Borjon winery.

“Here at Borjon Winery, as a Mexican-American owned winery, we decided to have a VINO EN MAYO celebration.  It’s our 2nd annual, and its our winery’s anniversary party as well.  We have as our Musical Guests the Mariachi Mi Tierra, and Nora Borjón is cooking authentic Mexican food.”  The official announcement on the website is this: May 5th 2012 will be a celebration of the traditions we've become known for. We'll have a wine sale, homemade Mexican food, Mariachi, AND new releases! Come be a part of the culture we've created that has made Borjón winery such a destination. Our wines are spectacular and our events are epic. Anyone who's been to a fiesta at Borjón will testify that the experience is priceless. Where else in Amador wine country can you find a landscape and architecture so traditionally Mexican?  Sadly, this event is already SOLD OUT.  

DeaverVineyards, on Steiner Road near Plymouth, Amador County,  is rolling in the Taco Truck on May 5th from 11am - 3pm.  “Plan on staying for lunch and celebrate Cinco de Mayo with the Deaver clan.  Join us for a blind, horizontal tasting of six 2008 Deaver Zinfandels, each produced from a different Deaver vineyard in Amador County.  Learn the history and stories behind each vineyard and experience the many variations of Zin.  Can you tell which Zin is which?”   Tasting seminars will run on the hour from 11am - 3pm and are limited to 20 people each.   $5/person, FREE/wine club & friends (call 209-245-4099 or email for coupon code).

Lou Cecchi of Long Creek Winery, near Oroville in Butte County, announced special discount pricing for Cinco de Mayo of 20% on all case purchases.

FIESTA de MAYO is what Baiocchi Family Vineyards calls their 6th Annual festival.  Greg and Sharon Baiocchi are looking forward to hosting vineyard walks, a bounce house and petting zoo for kids, and a horse shoe pit for adults at their mountain winery on Hidden Ranch Road in Fair Play, El Dorado County.  They encourage their guests to bring acoustic instruments for a fireside jam after dark, too…. and they are amenable to tents and campers on the property for anyone who wishes to stay overnight.  That’s true mountain hospitality, particularly in light of the fact that they won’t be selling wine at this event!

“Chef Mike with Fixins' will once again providing us with his fine Mexican cuisine.  Currently the weather forecast looks excellent for a great day here at our farm. Greg is very excited to play this year on his acoustic bass,” the Baiocchi announced.

Renwood Winery, on Steiner Road near Plymouth in Amador County, celebrates all day on Saturday, May 5, with delicious Mexican cuisine from MexQuite Mexican Restaurant in Folsom, paired with Renwood wines! Renwood will feature 3 different, freshly prepared salsas along with chicken Chimichanguitas and guacamole - all paired with Renwood wines.

Kevin Luther, Associate Winemaker & Manager at Wise Villa Winery near Lincoln in Placer County, informs us about his plans:  “Cinco De Mayo is a wonderful holiday of great historical significance, but also, it’s a day to celebrate freedom, with traditional Mexican Food, piñatas, and wine at Wise Villa Winery! We’ll be serving traditional Mexican Food catered by local restaurant “La Mexicana,” with live Latin music, piñata games (with prizes!), and more! This will be a family-friendly event and should be loads of fun! Saturday, May 5th, 6-9pm. $22 per person.  RSVPs to Kevin (at)

Villa Toscano, on Shenandoah Road near Plymouth in Amador County, offers an extravagant buffet on May 5th from 11am to 3:30pm at Bella Piazza ‘s event center. The menu features Fajitas, Lime cilantro marinated chicken breast, garlic herb marinated skirt steak – and all the trimmings (sour cream, guacamole, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and peppers). There will also be carnitas and cheese enchiladas with tomatillo verde sauce, served with Spanish rice and south west black beans. The buffet price is $12.95 for Wine Club members and 14.95 for non-members.

Perry Creek Winery, on Perry Creek Road, Fair Play, El Dorado County, is hosting its 1st annual Cinco de Mayo event from 12:00-3:00pm on May 5. “Join us for our 1st annual Cinco de Mayo celebration at Perry Creek. We will be serving traditional Mexican fare including steak and chicken fajitas, rice, beans, chips and salsa. We will have music, piñatas and of course fantastic wine specials. Stop by and enjoy the festivities with us and plan on a great day here at the winery. RSVP by May 1st to events (at) or 530-620-5175.”

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